Veterans line up to pay their last respects to George HW Bush

Kaylah Jackson
December 04, 2018 - 6:22 pm

© Jack Gruber-USA TODAY NETWORK

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Amidst the thousands of people who braved chilly D.C. winds to pay homage WWII veteran and Former President George H.W. Bush, were veterans who served while he was in office, taking one last opportunity to say “thanks,” to their Commander-in-Chief.

“I’ve been in two wars and Bush was in his war and did what he did. He was a great human being. It’s sad, but I’m glad it was peaceful for him,” says Army veteran, Dr. Phil Kiver.

Kiver, who worked in public affairs had multiple, pleasant interactions with Bush. He says it was a great honor to come together for this type of occasion.

“It’s an important rite of passage in our democracy, in our republic,” explains Kiver. “When one leader dies, everyone stops what they’re doing, everyone stops to recognize.

Kiver wasn’t the only Army veteran in the crowd. While the Former President served honorably as a Naval Aviator in WWII, his impact knows no bounds, even for those who didn't know him personally.

“I never met him but I’ve worked with people who have met him and I implemented some of his orders when I was in Panama,” reveals Bill Connolly.

Connolly served 28 years in the Army. He says serving under Bush was an honor. 

 “When we actually took Noriega out and he [President Bush] gave the order to make sure that the refugees were taken care of-- that was my mission,” said Connolly. “This guy was a very special guy as a Commander in Chief.”

Many veterans were not only grateful for his life of service but also appreciative of Bush’s leadership qualities.

“I learned from him that you need to let people do their jobs and not interfere. You need to have a vision of what you want overall but give the direction and let your generals run the war,” remarks Air Force veteran, Tad Miller. “At my level, I let my airmen run their shops.”

“Respect the elders and officers,” says Marine veteran Harris Nagy. who was in awe of the former president’s sacrifice.

Bush’s legacy still inspires many of those in uniform to make their own kind of sacrifice.

“When I was young, one of the things I wanted to be was a soldier and a statesman and Bush really embodied that,” says LTC Stephen Rubright.

Before Rubright received his commission from the United States Military Academy, he met then-President George H.W. Bush as a young cadet.

“I actually got a chance to meet him and get a quick picture with him. I think his commitment to service is something that all of us really need to remember…Not all of us are going to be President of the United States or Director of the CIA, but I think in our own way by making selfless service the core of what we do every day, I think we can really have a positive impact,” explains Rubright.

What echoed in many veterans’ memories of “41” was how he inspired them in and out of uniform and how even in his passing, they are still learning about his contributions to the country.

“I was in the National Guard when President Bush called us to Desert Storm so a lot of our units went to Desert Storm,” says Lily Richard Brown.

“He was fair…I learned much more just how awesome his service was and just how fair he was to everybody… its good knowing that he looked out for everybody, not only the veterans but everyone.”

Some veterans stood in line wearing full dress uniforms, some wore hats highlighting their service or campaign, and some donned small service pins attached to their lapel, but everyone shared one commonality with the 41st president—a love of service.

The former president will lie-in-state at the Capitol Rotunda until 7:00 am on Wednesday, December 5. His state funeral will take place shortly after at 11 a.m. at the National Cathedral.

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